The Oghuz Turks
The Turkic groups of people that emerged from Central Asia during the Medieval Period were a force to be reckoned with wherever they went. These hardy nomads streamed out of their homelands in Central Asia and Southern Siberia and initially lived in the frontiers of major empires of the medieval period, such as the Han, Tang, Persian, Abbasid, and Byzantine. From the Central Asian steppes, they reached the frontiers of the Middle East and Eastern Europe where they proceeded to carve empires of their own through their mighty warriors. The Sultan became Muslim during 1000 AD where it is listed on the Biblical Timeline with World History.
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Some of the most resilient groups of Turkic people were the Oghuz Turks (later known as Western Turks) whose first known homeland was in the area of the Altai Mountains in present-day Western Mongolia. They left the Altai Mountain area during the eighth century and settled in Transoxiana, an area located in parts of present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. This area was later called Bilad-al-Turk or the “land of the Turks” by medieval Arab geographers. The land on which the Oghuz Turks settled on bordered the domain of the Ghaznavid Empire to the west. A warrior named Tughril (a chieftain of the Oghuz Turks who descended from a leader named Seljuk) rose from his people’s nomadic heritage and paved the way for his descendants to build a distinctly Central Asian and Muslim empire of their own.
Tughril: The Seljuk Sultan
Before they made contact with Arabs, Persians, and other Central Asian peoples, the ancient Turkic people of Central and Northern Asia practiced shamanism and worshiped the sky god Tengri. The Uyghurs of Central Asia, another Turkic people, converted to Manichaeism in the eighth century, while others converted to Buddhism during the domination of the Tang. The Oghuz were surrounded by Muslim empires when they settled in Transoxania, so it was only a matter of time before they started to absorb the teachings of Islam and become Muslims themselves.
The Oghuz Turk warrior Tughril (or Togrul) was the grandson of a man named Seljuk and he first rose as the chieftain of his tribe in 1016 while his people were still in Central Asia. While Sultan Mahmud al-Ghazni was conquering territories in northwestern India, Tughril also carried out expeditions with his own warriors to conquer the whole Oxus region. When Mahmud died in 1030, Tughril took advantage of the opportunity and led his warriors into the western portion of the Ghaznavid empire to conquer it. Eight years later, he fought his way with his brother Chaghri and their troops into the Ghaznavid capital Nishapur, deposed its ruler, and declared himself the Muslim sultan of the Seljuk Turks. Tughril would lead his warriors twenty years later into the eastern frontier of the Byzantine empire and launch the first of the many Seljuk Turk raids on the declining state. He received a portion of the Byzantine empire’s eastern frontier as a ransom for the captives and paved the way for the entrance of the Turkic people into Europe.
Picture By Dmitry A. Mottl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Bradbury, Jim. The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare. London: Routledge, 2004.
Karasulas, Antony. Mounted Archers of the Steppe: 600 BC – AD 1300. Oxford: Osprey, 2004.
Peacock, A. C. S. The Great Seljuk Empire. Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
Slatyer, Will. Ebbs and Flows of Medieval Empires, AD 9001400. Place of Publication Not Identified: Trafford On Demand Pub, 2012.
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